Neuroscience Series

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin, often called the snuggle hormone, is better thought of as the neuromodulator of the attachment system.  It is associated with group bonding, empathy through narrative, breast-feeding, and that warm-fuzzy feeling after orgasm.  The dark side of oxytocin, sometimes called the mother-bear effect, is outgroup intolerance, and exclusivity.  The divider between the two effects us […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is your stress hormone.  It increases in your body to organize fight, flight, faint behavior.  This includes shutting down any systems not immediately needed for escape or combat, shutting down your immune system, and switching your brain to acting based on habits. On a molecular level, a cortisol cascade shut down the connection that […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is about creating a subjective sense of resource availability.  In lower organisms, this could mean food.  In higher organisms, especially social organisms, this translates into availabilities for mating opportunities, socioeconomic position/dominance, and mood.  It also plays a role in appetite and sleep.   It is derived from tryptophan.  In addition to its role in […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Dopamine? Reward, Learning, and Flexibility

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for reward-based learning. It’s involved in compulsive behaviors and wanting (anticipation, craving) but not liking (pleasure).  Dopamine is made in the Substantia Nigra. dopamine pathway problems include addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia.   My favorite explanation of the function of dopamine is the following: “We suggest that interposed between input […]

Neuroscience Series

What is the Anterior Cingulate Cortex?

Got conflict? The anterior cingulate cortex is the place in your brain that monitors errors, surprises, and violated expectations.  It fires off when you do something as simple as write a sentence that you disagree with.  It’s not your moral center of your brain.  It just manages expectations in a way.  It’s simplest to think […]

Neuroscience Series

What is the Insular Cortex?

The insula is the site of integration of the signals from the rest of your body systems.  We often refer to this sense as interoception.  Think of it as your Spidey sense. In that way, the insula is the seat of consciousness, your sense of self, managing homeostasis (your internal chemical, temperature, immune and emotional […]

Neuroscience Series

What is the Hippocampus?

The hippocampus, named for its seahorse-like shape, is the site of episodic and autobiographical memory.  Memories with “what, where, when” components are woven into narrative form thanks to the hippocampus.  It also manages spatial navigation and combines previous memories with new events to create novel precepts.  Next time you see an old friend and recognize […]

Neuroscience Series

What is the Pre-Frontal Cortex?

The Prefrontal Cortex is the site of executive function, social functioning, decision-making.  The cortex, which means “bark” in latin  is where you represent the value of decisions.  You represent your goal-directed behaviors and impulse control here.   Neurohypnotic Bonus Response inhibition is modulated by functional cerebral asymmetries for facial expression perception Hemispheric asymmetries and cognitive […]

Neuroscience Series

What is the Amygdala?

The amygdala, part of the brain’s limbic system, is the integration site of emotional learning.  It sits in front of and connected to your hippocampus (the seat of episodic and autobiographical memory).  Although you often hear it associated with fear, the amygdala is also involved in pleasurable emotions.  If you’re experiencing intense emotions you can […]

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Bonus Episode: Making Meaning is Complicated

Here’s the article that inspired this episode. Here’s a video on the McGurk effect.